Vanilla Ink currently houses 5 resident jewellers. This is Emma Gall an Edinburgh College of Art graduate who works with alternative materials and combines them with silver to create unique and natural pieces of jewellery.Read More
We are spending some time to introduce you to the Vanilla Ink residents currently taking up a bench in our workshop at MAKLab Glasgow.
VI: Tell us a bit about yourself?
GF: I grew up just outside of Glasgow. I am very fortunate to have creative parents and grandparents who nourished my interest in art and design. I remember many a holiday absorbing culture and the arts at exhibitions. I loved these experiences and always wanted to find out about the history of artists as well as admiring the colours and textures. There were always art materials in the house and my mum was often drawing and painting with me. I always knew I wanted to do something in art and design but I thought I would focus on drawing and painting until my fantastic art teacher introduced me to jewellery and how diverse and beautiful a subject it is. The work of Jacqueline Ryan and Giovanni Corvaja mesmerised me and made me want to experience working in metal so I undertook an evening course at the Glasgow School of Art. This affirmed my desire to go into Jewellery and Silversmithing, I decided to spread my wings and chose to study at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. I worked in many materials at Birmingham, it wasn’t until my final year at university that I began to explore what I could do with precious metal and after making my final collection I wanted to develop this further. Postgraduate training at Bishopsland allowed me to refine my metal skills and develop other essential skills for working as a jeweller. I moved back to Glasgow in 2011 and have been developing my skills and selling in shops and galleries as well as working to commission.
VI: What inspires/inspired you to make?
My work is inspired by nature, I spend a lot of time outdoors swimming at Loch Lomond, on the bike, running and walking. I constantly admire the scenery as I travel through it and notice the simple forms of nature and beautifully eroded man made forms. I use photography and drawing as a means to record these and work through the design process to create patterns and forms that I can use in my work. Designing and making in precious metals challenges and relaxes me. I am amazed by metal working processes and I am glad to work in a field where I will always be learning. I enjoy working with clients on commission for wedding bands and special presents. It is lovely to be able to make something special for someone to give to someone they love or to commemorate a special event.
VI: You work big and small, which do you prefer?
I enjoy working both big and small. I thought I would be a jeweller through and through until there was a competition amongst ‘the gang’ at Bishopsland to design a piece of silverware for a Goldsmiths’ Company bursary. I developed an idea for a fruit bowl inspired by pond reeds and my design was chosen for the bursary allowing me to work on a larger scale. Working on this piece challenged me and led to me making more big pieces. Jewellery is my preference as I find my designs require more problem solving and the techniques I love using are more suited to jewellery. I still design larger pieces and now I’m in Vanilla Ink maybe I’ll make some of them.
VI: Tell us about your time at Birmingham and Bishoplands.
I feel really fortunate to have experienced both The School of Jewellery (Birmingham) and Bishopsland.
Being in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter was a great place to study with so much history, the Assay Office, all the bullion merchants, stone dealers and tool suppliers on your doorstep. The school was inspirational in many ways and it was really good that all the silversmiths, jewelers, gemologists and horologists were working in the same place. The BA Jewellery Design and Silversmithing course which I took was focused on innovation and pushing the boundaries of materials and design. Over the three years we worked through many different and exciting projects pushing our creativity in design and in materials.
Bishopsland was a fantastic place to be in for the year. It gave me such good experiences in jewellery, silversmithing, working with galleries, teaching and working on a special project with the British Museum. We produced our designs to sell at various events throughout the year including Art in Action, Henley Festival and many others. In addition to this we had weekly guidance from Angela Cork and John Bartholomew as well as specialist workshops on: chasing from Rod Kelly, gold fusing from Jacqueline Mina and spent a week in Scotland learning engraving with Malcolm Appleby. I got to develop the metal working skills I longed for and gain an understanding of what it’s like to work as a jeweller/ silversmith. The gang all had very different styles; we worked together and learned a lot from each other too. It was great to see how the new skills we were learning added something different to everyone’s work. I would recommend this experience to any graduate who wants to develop their metal skills and gain a varied experience in the industry.
VI: Do you see a difference in working and learning in Glasgow to other place you’ve worked?
Absolutely, each place I have worked has been very different. I am glad I experienced living and working elsewhere but now I’ve found my feet again in Glasgow you can’t beat it. The creative industries seem to be taking off in Scotland and in particular Glasgow, there are so many opportunities emerging in jewellery. I am very excited to be part of this development.
VI: What tool could you not live without?
I find this hard to answer as I couldn’t live without so many but if I have to choose one It’s my handy ring vice that helps me hold tiny things and protects my fingers.
VI: We’ve seen you playing with lots of stones in the workshop - what’s your favourite stone?
I’ve always loved emeralds, it’s my birthstone and green is my favourite colour. I also love how the unique conditions from which they are formed means that all emeralds involve inclusions.
VI: What’s your own personal taste in Jewellery?
I don’t have a specific taste in jewellery, I love many different types of jewellery: Egyptian, Art Deco, Celtic and Modern Contemporary. I like highly skilled or well-designed work as well as quirkier work. My most recent purchase was a pair of earrings by Helen Noakes her work is really fun.
VI: What have you got planned for GLF jewellery?
I plan on developing GLF jewellery as a brand over the next few years. I’m quite excited about my new designs and cant wait to start making them over the next few weeks and seeing how they do over Christmas. Watch this space!
The Vanilla Ink Workshop in MAKLab filled it's benches a few months ago. We want to take some time to introduce you to the new residents. First up is DJCAD graduate, Kaela Hogg.Read More
WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN AND HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD THIS STYLE?
I didn’t always work like this, it all came about in the past five years after working for a company based in London, Erickson Beamon. I was there working on their diamond range, very over the top pieces. I was in amongst it, you had people from vogue coming to collect things, celebrity clients, it was an intense time. They are one of the top costume jewellery brands in the world.
Prior to that I studied at Central Saint Martins after Ayr college in Scotland, there I played with materials like porcelain, aluminium but colour was always important to me. I enjoyed experimenting and learning my craft. I have always been attracted to the fashion side of the jewellery world, I love designing for brands and the runway. But my love for, dare I say it, ‘costume’ jewellery came from Beamon.
HOW WOULD DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE THEN AND NOW?
My college work was completely different. I’m not sure if I was to exhibit it all in one room I would be able to recognise it. However, the idea for Lucky Bitches came about while I was at Art School, all be it in different materials, a porcelain ball spinning on an aluminium shank, but everyone loved it at college, it was a design I had to revisit and bring it up to date.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO SET UP ON YOUR OWN?
After the financial crash in 2008 I was made redundant at Erickson Beamon, I started working immediately on my own brand. It was a whirlwind experience and I learned so much there. Losing my job was a blessing in disguise, it kick started me into setting up on my own and I wouldn’t be where I am now without that. I worked for many years freelancing for others and now I work on my own designs and have full creative control.
It was daunting time, I had to move back with my parents in Troon and I began making Bridal Jewellery as I didn’t know what else to do, I had never made costume jewellery before. So I had to re-think things, I started talking to people, going back to classes and learning again.
At that time, people weren’t buying precious jewellery, I knew my market would be in costume jewellery, I saw a path and I took it.
FASHION OR CRAFT?
I dabble with both, I really enjoy the bespoke, it is important for the business and it keeps me interested. I try not to define myself; I still want people to treasure everything I make.
DO YOU THINK PEOPLE CAN CHERISH A PIECE OF COSTUME JEWELLERY AS MUCH AS PRECIOUS JEWELLERY?
Yes and no, fashion pieces have become more collectable in recent years but in terms of value and materials, it’s a different market.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO SUPPORT SCOTLAND AND YOUR HOMETOWN?
I have a lot of people in Troon that support me and it’s important for me to recognise where it all began, it keeps me grounded. I have stocked a shop there, The Herbary since I began and they continue to champion me, which is humbling. Scotland doesn’t allow you to get above your station, which I am grateful for. I have always loved Glasgow (minus the weather), it’s a gritty city and it’s really creative. Quality of life is really important to me, I can live the city life but I can hop on a train and be in Loch Lomond within 20 minutes.
FASHION, DESIGN, COLLABORATIONS, PHOTO SHOOTS, CATWALKS...WHAT'S THE MOST EXCITING PART?
Scotland Re:Designed show, last year, there was such a buzz and the adrenaline behind the scenes was great. When the last look came out (a jet crystal mask and harness), I could hear the audience’s reaction - sometimes you spend days making something that are seen for 10 seconds. Often your jewellery goes out into the world but right there I got to see an immediate reaction.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
I love creating a brand and building the excitement. The market is constantly changing and you always have to keep people engaged, I revel in the challenge of that. As a jeweller, I think we constantly need to keep people interested or we can become stagnant. It’s a time consuming part of the business but I really enjoy it.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE YOU'VE DESIGNED?
The Octopus Ring; the theme of light in the dark played a part, which seems to be a constant theme throughout my work. It’s a creature from the deep, but incredibly beautiful. The stone inside was intended to be subtle so it showed a depth of colour and light.
HOW WAS YOUR RECENT TRIP TO INDIA?
An opportunity came up through Scottish Development International to promote Scottish businesses. From Glasgow Gin to kneepads, there was a great mix of people. I visited Mumbai, Jaipur and Deli. I wanted to re-establish connections with factories and suppliers i had worked with and then in Jaipur to build relationships with stone dealers and stonecutters. It was an incredible experience and I definitely want to go back, a lot of my inspiration comes from India and a place that endlessly fascinates me.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TOOL?
Beading needles. I would be lost without them, it’s amazing what you can do with a needle.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR EUAN MCWHIRTER?
I want to start branching into different things, less about the brand and more about the industry. A blog that will reveal processes, inspiration, working with different artisans and the background of my work – The Existential Jeweller, that connects my love of jewellery and travel. The new collection launches online by the end of May. A re-brand by the end of September, that will see me venture into precious jewellery, a studio sale coming up on Thursday, and one day I would love to run my own shop!